We’ve arrived in Ubud, the artistic and cultural center of Bali. We’ve decided to hunker down here for 2 weeks in a homestay run by the lovely, smiling Wayan. It is a traditional Balinese homestay with around 4 rooms surrounding a courtyard filled with small temples, the rich greens of plants and manicured grass along the paths, and small fountains and ponds that often make the only noise at night besides for the chirping of geckos.

Rice paddies in East Bali

I wake up before David each morning to the crows of roosters and sit on our large patio with a book and watch the movings and going-ons of Wayan’s family as they get ready for the day. This particular morning, Wayan has already done her family’s laundry, and it drapes across the patios and bushes like a colorful snowfall. As she goes about her other morning activities, sweeping the courtyard or making breakfast for her guests, her elderly mother glides through the pathways with a large tray of palm offerings and gives each one an upward wave, as if wafting each prayer towards the heavens. Later, she walks the small paths with a handful of smoking incense, a swirling cloud or aroma dancing and then dissipating behind her footsteps. I could watch this family all day, but soon the yells of children and the far off rumble of motorbikes on the nearby road bring me back to the present.

Although Ubud has grown considerably and been built up every year to cater to the increasing amounts of tourists, (thanks a lot, Eat, Pray, Love) I feel that it has still remained a deep sense of authenticity and uniqueness compared to the other towns frequented by Westerners. Of course, when you are on the busy streets of Monkey Forest or Jl. Raya Ubud, the shops and restaurants could almost be anywhere on Bali. But once you travel a bit outside, maybe even just a 15 minute walk in the opposite directions of these areas, you find yourself in a whole new world where there is the feeling of a more tranquil and genuine rhythm of life. The other day, David and I rented a motorbike to try and find the black sand beaches of East Bali where many important coastal temples are found. Without a map we never found the temples, but driving onto the various one-lane roads that led to the water we not only encountered the volcanic beaches, but also found ourselves in small villages and rice paddies that the regular traveler rarely gets to see.

The volcanic sands of East Bali

We’ve definitely found a sort of rhythm here in Ubud. We have breakfast and relax at our makeshift home for most of the morning, explore the area on foot or on the motorbike I rented to get to and from my volunteer job here, go on the internet once in a while to keep in touch with friends and family, then head back to our homestay where we might talk and share stories with our newly made friends, play cards, or read before we head out to dinner – either just Dav and I, or with people we’ve met here and there. It is starting to feel like home sweet home, for now.